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Agility, Risk Mgmt, Top CIO Priorities in 2021: IT Expert

With Covid-19 creating unprecedented challenges for IT in 2020, many CXOs are struggling with how to orient their teams and resources heading into the New Year. While challenges are plenty, a new report by Snow Software surveyed 1,000 IT leaders from different countries show only those organizations with a strong insight and governance of their technology ecosystem are better positioned to achieve their priorities.

“The complexities, risks and budget concerns IT departments traditionally face have been exacerbated, and a rapid acceleration of digital transformation and cloud adoption has brought new issues to the forefront,” Alastair Pooley, Chief Information Officer at Snow told CXOToday.

Highlighting some of the key findings of the study, Pooley said, one of the major issues IT leaders are facing is that technology management has become increasingly difficult. According to Snow research, many IT leaders indicated increases in technology spend across the board – on software, hardware, SaaS and cloud – over the past 12 months. Faced with more complex ecosystems, it is no surprise that 63% also reported technology management had become more difficult.

As anticipated budget restrictions go into effect for 2021, IT leaders will need to demonstrate the value of their investments and ensure proper governance over their entire technology stack, said Pooley.

The study also noted that employee perception of IT has improved, but differing perceptions on technology management and procurement hint at potential issues. 

While 41% of workers believe that access to technology has improved, there remains a 22-point gap between IT leaders and employees on how easy it is to purchase software, applications or cloud services.

Pooley noted, this is not the only area where IT leaders and workers have varying views. Though they agree that security is the number one issue caused by unmanaged and unaccounted for technology, awareness of additional issues drops dramatically after that, with 16% of workers believing it causes no business issues whatsoever. The data suggests continued challenges ahead for organizations as they try to reduce risk across the board.

The research also pointed out that vendor audits are a looming but potentially underestimated risk in 2021. Eighty-seven percent of IT leaders said they had been audited by a software vendor over the last 12 months.

The vendors that audited the most were Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Adobe and SAP. Yet only 51% said they were concerned about audits over the next 12 months, an answer that varied wildly based on geography – 81% of US leaders said they were concerned compared to just 30% in Germany and 42% in the UK and even lesser in other regions.

Based on 2020 trends as well as vendor behavior following the 2008 recession, it appears that globally, IT leaders are significantly underestimating this risk.

Finally, the study finds, organization’s top IT priorities are inherently at odds with each other and often align with the IT department’s biggest challenges. IT leaders reported that their organization’s top priorities in 2020 were adopting new technologies (38%), reducing security risks (38%), reducing IT spend (38%). They paralleled the biggest challenges IT leaders faced over the past 12 months with managing cybersecurity threats (43%), implementing new technologies (40%) and supporting remote work (39%).

“Juggling these conflicting and difficult priorities became even more complicated in light of Covid-19,” it said.

While researchers believe, strong technology intelligence enabled IT leaders to more effectively tackle their top priorities and challenges, only 14% of IT leaders met the bar for mature technology intelligence. This elite group outpaced other respondents in their ability to support digital transformation, reduce risk, enable employees and control spends.

“Now more than ever, IT leaders need to be in a position to quickly adapt to these macro trends as they define their top technology priorities in 2021,” said Pooley, who believes, CIOs adopting mature technology intelligence – defined as the ability to understand and manage all technology resources – correlated to resilience and growth. The study also indicated that innovation continues to be a strategic focus for their organization.

“As we collectively look ahead to 2021, it’s more important than ever that CIOs and IT leaders strike the right balance between managing risk and remaining agile in the face of continued unpredictability,” said Pooley.

“It is clear from the data that a comprehensive understanding of technology resources and the ability to manage them is a key differentiator. IT leaders can use these insights to endure challenging periods like the pandemic, as well as embrace innovation to drive future growth and resilience,” he summed up.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at